As we entered the Teen Zone for our meeting this month, music started playing. I don’t remember the tune, but the room is decorated for ‘80s Fright Night, with red-paint handprints, scrawled messages on the white board, and other paraphernalia, including a teen’s Bluetooth radio—and a couple of teens were there, adding atmosphere! The stage was set for a spooky discussion of The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley, which began with that misleading bloody hand on the window!
We were a small group and the discussion was quiet and pleasant. I hadn’t even thought of Halloween and capturing the thrill of the season. Instead, we had French Lemonade, macarons, and madeleines. Everyone liked the book, the twists and turns, and the happy ending. Our first responder was new to our book club and noted that the novel was paced like a movie, ready to join other book-to-miniseries adaptations. She would have liked the author to develop characters and situations more fully before moving on to the next turn of events. She did appreciate the various cultural references and she felt like she was in the apartment. The next responder thought it was nice to have a book without a lot of politics and philosophy, and he particularly enjoyed the many surprising twists. Perhaps there were a few too many characters. And how sad that Sophie was outed by her accent. One of us appreciated that the novel was easy to read and another liked seeing how rich people make and spend their money. He mentioned the expense of tickets to the “local” sports teams and the pricing out of locals from the Las Vegas experience in general. He also made the connection that homelessness is harder for people who fall from the top: Nick and Antoine, spoiled, wealthy children, versus scrappy Jess and resilient Ben. And lucky Ben, adopted into a wealthy family versus life-long foster child Jess.
We questioned the believability of some of the plot details. Would Jess, a street-smart woman and bartender, accept a drink from a stranger? Could Ben really have survived the attack as described? We also considered that wine (taste and price!) is really over-rated. A $20 bottle of wine from Costco can be sold for $16 a glass at a nice restaurant. I recommended the book, The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine by Benjamin Wallace. We discussed people’s fascination with violence and the rich and famous, even as they condemn it. We didn’t discuss any of this in such neat order. We didn’t follow any prepared questions. But we did bring a lot of our own understanding of characters and social issues into the discussion!
Reviews I read mentioned how all the characters were unlikeable, but this didn’t seem to bother our group much. So, are they really unlikeable? In fact, thinking about the difference between not-liked and unlikeable highlights another important discussion we had–about language. One member wondered why the author didn’t translate all the French in the book. Did we need it all translated? I was impressed by how well the author did make the various French phrases understood. One of us, whose first language is Spanish, remembered how he thought his Spanish-speaking Cuban coworkers were hard to understand and spoke too fast! He learned English growing up and going to school in the United States and now thinks that proper Spanish is harder than proper English! It’s all a matter of perspective. Another member had known many Puerto Ricans in Ohio, and until she moved to Las Vegas, she believed all Spanish speakers were Puerto Rican. She also recently gave up trying to teach her grandchildren cursive. Cursive is not just about learning to write, but about learning to read and understand communications from the past, emphasizing the differences between generations. One reader listened to the audiobook and heard the story through the voices of different actors. How different was her experience? Reading the same book, we are creating shared experiences, but discussing it helps us realize the benefits even more. I hope you will join us next month. In the meantime, read the comments from one of our absent members and leave one to share!
Other works/initiatives discussed:
- NaNoWriMo: “National Novel Writing Month began in 1999 as a daunting but straightforward challenge: to write 50,000 words of a novel during the thirty days of November.” https://nanowrimo.org
- Succession (2018) Televison Series: “Succession follows a dysfunctional American global-media family.” https://lvccld.bibliocommons.com/v2/record/S134C2164409